Sound wall information

Oct 12, 2017

Review the FAQs below to learn more about sound walls and the voting process. If you have questions or would like to schedule a briefing from project officials at your upcoming community association meeting, please contact the team members listed at the bottom of this page. 

About sound walls
What is a sound wall?
A sound wall is a solid barrier between the highway and the homes along the highway that is designed to reduce traffic noise with a maximum height of 30 feet.
How are the potential locations for sound walls selected?
The potential locations that are selected for a sound wall are locations at which the noise level has exceeded 67 decibels or has increased by 10 decibels or more as a result of a road project
Who pays for sound walls?
Sound walls for the 395 Express Lanes Project will be funded by the project concessionaire.Voting on Sound Walls
I am a resident of one of the locations that have been selected as a potential location for a sound wall. Will I have a say on whether the sound wall is constructed?
If you are determined to be a “benefit receptor unit owner and/or resident” (in other words, you would benefit from the sound wall), you will be asked to vote on the sound wall. Voting will begin in the fall of 2017 after VDOT has reviewed the Draft Noise Abatement Decision Report and the preliminary sound wall designs are available. The results of the vote will be incorporated into the final sound wall plans, which will be available in the winter of 2018.
Who determines who is a “benefit receptor”?
VDOT engineers use computer modeling to determine the benefit receptors. The modeling is based on factors such loudest hour of the day, topography, distance from the road to residences, and the sound that is produced by difference types of vehicles. Benefited receptors are receptors shown in the noise study to have a predicted noise reduction of 5 decibels or more from the proposed sound walls.
Do non-resident property owners get to vote, too? Is their vote weighted the same as homeowners?
Non-resident property owners who are determined to be benefit receptors will be eligible to vote. Their votes will be given a weight of 3. As a comparison, the votes of homeowners who are also residents will be given a weight of 5.
Do renters get to vote, too? Is their vote weighted the same as homeowners?
Renters who are determined to be benefit receptors will be eligible to vote. Their votes will be given a weight of 2. As a comparison, the votes of homeowners who are also residents will be given a weight of 5.
I live in a high-rise apartment building. How does the voting work for residents of an apartment building?
Residents in high-rise apartments may not be considered benefited receptors.  The maximum height of a sound wall is 30 feet. Residences that are higher than the final “top” elevation of the sound wall are not considered to be benefitted from the noise wall.  Residences that are below the elevation of the top of the sound wall will be considered benefit receptors and the owner of the multifamily dwelling unit will be granted one vote per benefited unit.
How are ballots issued?
Initial ballots will be sent by certified mail. Once the benefitted residences have been identified, addresses are verified by the Homeowner’s Association or Civic Association (if available) and on the City of Alexandria’s website for real estate properties. If an insufficient number of initial ballots are returned within 21 days, a follow-up ballot will be sent by regular mail. Residents will have 15 days to return the follow-up ballot.
Where can I find information that will help me decide how to vote?
Your ballot will let you know where to find information on sound walls.
How long will I have to respond?
You will have 21 days to respond to the initial ballot, and, if necessary, 15 days to respond to the follow-up ballot, beginning with the day you receive the ballot.
How is the decision made on whether or not to construct the sound walls?
After the votes have been collected, the sound barriers at each location will be analyzed based on the number of votes and the weights of the votes. VDOT will decide whether to construct the sound wall based on results from the voting, the noise study, and other public outreach.
What minimum response is required?
The ballot will have instructions on responding. You may vote either yes or no, or you can simply not vote. Non-responses are not considered to be respondents.  At least 50 percent of distributed ballots on the first attempt are required for the result to be counted. The majority of responses on the second attempt will determine the outcome of the vote.
When and how will I be notified of the decision?
VDOT will prepare an addendum to the noise study showing the results of the voting and how VDOT reached a determination on the construction of a sound wall at each location. The addendum must be approved by FHWA, and when that’s done, the addendum will be made available to the public.
Sound wall specifications and aesthetics
What are the dimensions of a sound wall?
The maximum height of a noise wall is 30 feet. Earth mounds are shorter than walls but require more horizontal space.
How can I see what the sound wall will look like?
Sound wall renderings will be made available as requested. Designs will be selected in an effort to create consistency along the corridor.
Sound wall installation and maintenance
What can we expect during the sound barrier installation in our community? Night work? Noise? Dust?
VDOT is concerned with noise generated during the construction phase of its projects. Noise impacts that occur during the construction of the sound wall will be temporary and will end after the construction is complete. VDOT follows its 2007 Road and Bridge Specifications, Section 107.16(b.3) to reduce the impact of construction noise on the surrounding community. VDOT may prohibit work that produces objectionable noise between 10pm and 6am or other house, if governed by local ordinance. 
Who do I call with issues during the installation?
The design-build public information officer, Geoff Vetter, should be contacted with any questions or concerns. He can be reached at geoffrey.vetter@aecom.com.
How much vegetation will we lose?
Vegetation will be removed as required to construct the walls. This will be limited as much as possible and is typically approximately a 5-foot buffer on each side of the wall.
Who will maintain the sound walls?
VDOT maintains and repairs sound walls that are built on State rights-of-way.

Questions or concerns should be directed to:

  • Michelle Holland, VDOT, michelle.holland@vdot.virginia.gov, 703-586-0487
  • Brent McKenzie, 95 Express Lanes, bmckenzie@transurban.com, 571-326-5609
  • Geoffrey Vetter, Lane/AECOM Design-Build Team, Geoffrey.Vetter@aecom.com, 815-245-7800